The nations rage, the kingdoms totter

Psalm 46

Nations have continued to rage both within themselves and between each other over the 3000 years since the above words were written. Ps 46.6 Boundaries between countries have been constantly shifting throughout history, dominant powers rise and fall, some disappearing completely.  Internally nations are often volatile and as I write the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is dominating headlines following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.  In current times an individual event can produce an almost instant response throughout a nation and even across the globe.  The symbolism of one action captures an essence and causes a nation to totter. The unrelenting knee pressing on the neck of George Floyd summed up in a single cruel event the oppression of Black people over hundreds of years. The throwing of Edward Colston’s statue, a prominent Bristol slave trader, into the river, whilst illegal, stood for a demand for institutional repentance and internal change from Britain’s imperial heritage. How then should the Christian Church respond and does the psalm that contains the words, nations rage and kingdoms totter, have anything to say today?

The psalm has two very famous verses, ‘God is our refuge and strength an ever-present help in trouble,’ v1 and ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations.’ v10 Although Christians frequently take comfort from these words individually they are addressed in the psalm to a people group, the people of God. The threat to the nation is unspecified, it is likely that the threat is to Jerusalem that represents the city of God. v4 The psalm with extravagant imagery describes the awesome power of God vv 6, and his power to control nations. vv  8-9

The, ‘river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells’ v4  is an image found in Ezekiel 47.1-12 and Revelation 22.1-2 of the river of life bringing new life and sustaining life, flowing from the throne of God, in the city of God.  The message is clear, in the midst of great turmoil God is able to bring new life through the Holy Spirit.

If God is our refuge then the values and stance we should take as Christians must be those that reflect his character.  God in Psalm 46 is a God of action v9 and so as disciples Christians should also be people of action. It was Christians historically, in Britain, who led the fight for the abolition of slavery, even though many in the church at the time resisted the movement. It was the repentant slave trader, John Newton, who gave us the great Christian anthem, Amazing Grace.

The Old Testament call to discipleship still acts as a clarion call over the millennia:

‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.’ Micah 6.8

Jesus perfectly lived out Micah’s commission and now united in the cross of Christ his disciples are in God’s eyes equal in value and in his love.  ‘For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ Galatians 3.27-28 

In the middle of turmoil and action God calls on his people to quietly centre ourselves on him, trusting in him, having confidence in his presence.  From this place we will find the strength to live Micah 6.8 lives.

How can the church act in the uproar of national life?

What opportunities does the church create to be still and know that God is God?

How do we live out the crucified life of Christ in our community?

Be still for the presence of the Lord is here

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